Councils struggle to relocate survivors

Councils struggle to relocate survivors

District and city councils hit by Cyclone Freddy are struggling to relocate some survivors from the disaster-prone to safer areas due to several factors including resistance, it has emerged.

Spot-checks in Blantyre, Nsanje, Chikwawa, Mulanje, Phalombe and Chiradzulu found that some survivors continue to refuse to be relocated to safer places due to lack of houses and land wrangles councils are facing.

Soche Hill in Blantyre where the cyclone killed scores

In a written response yesterday, Blantyre City Council director of town planning Costly Chanza acknowledged that the relocation exercise in the city has attracted mixed reactions as some residents are refusing to relocate.

He said the council alongside some ministries, department’s and agencies (MDAs) and other stakeholders are still preparing the Mapanga layout plan, in which government allocated about 300 hectares for the relocation exercise.

Said Chanza: “On the other hand, the mbadwa [people born and raised in a particular area] are not keen to allow the area to be used as a resettlement site, citing issues of farming land.

“On their part, some Freddy victims do not want to relocate unless they are compensated money to rebuild their structures over and above the plots they are being promised.”

However, he said the steering committee has advised the people that Soche Hill and all other hills in the city are not fit for human habitation and that everyone needs to relocate to Mapanga.

The Ministry of Local Government, Unity and Culture recently indicated that the relocation of people from Soche to Mapanga would begun on October 20 and that by October end all should move from hills.

In an earlier interview, Mulanje district commissioner David Maxwell Gondwe said finding land for the relocation of cyclone survivors is a major challenge in the district.

He said poverty levels in Mulanje were high and that most cyclone survivors cannot afford to build their houses even if they are given the new land.

Chikwawa District Council public relations officer Leah Malimbasa said the district has already relocated about 1 600 households. She said about 2 500 more survivors need to be relocated, but the council is yet to complete new land acquisition to relocate them.

“There is need to fast-track land acquisition for the remaining communities. We also need support in the form of food because the people didn’t harvest enough food, others didn’t harvest at all in the past season as their crops were washed away,” she said.

Deputy Minister of Local Government, Unity and Culture Owen Chomanika is on record as having said no transport will be provided to ferry people from Soche to Mapanga as residents will be asked to voluntarily move out. He said those opting not to go to Mapanga will have to rent houses elsewhere.

In March 2023, Cyclone Freddy affected over 2.5 million people with 676 confirmed deaths, over 660 000 displaced, 537 people missing and 44 roads damaged while countless bridges, health infrastructure and crops were washed away.

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